Newly identified strains of Chlamydia trachomatis could produce new diseases

November 15, 2006

A new study led by a scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) is the first to conclude that Chlamydia trachomatis is evolving at a rate faster than scientists first thought or imagined.

Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacterium that is the leading cause of sexually transmitted diseases and the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Scientists believe the bacterium is evolving through a process called recombination where genes from one or more strains combine to create new strains and – theoretically – new diseases.

The study is featured in the November issue of Genome Research and was led by Dr. Deborah Dean MD, MPH, senior scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). Her research suggests that since Chlamydia trachomatis evolves through recombination where one or more strains combine, the traditional method of studying a single gene to track the transmission of the bacterium is wrong. "What we found is an organism that not only evolves rapidly, but in ways that we thought were rare. We also discovered that this organism can customize its attack," said Dr. Dean. "Consequently, the constant flux of the bacterium could serve as a gateway for new emerging diseases, but more research needs to be conducted to understand if and how this is happening."

600 million people are infected across the globe with Chlamydia trachomatis and 8 million are already blind or severely visually impaired. In some parts of third-world countries, more than 90% of the population is infected. Chlamydia trachomatis has a variety of strains; different strains are responsible for different diseases. Some strains cause sexually transmitted diseases while others cause eye infections. Blinding trachoma is caused by repeated eye infections that cause scarring, which result in the eyelashes turning in-wards. Bacterial infection develops as the eyelashes scratch the surface of the eye, which eventually heals by scarring, resulting in blindness.

Previously, the organism was identified using a single gene, ompA, and the protein encoded by that gene, MOMP. In this study, the clinical strains, which are samples of Chlamydia trachomatis currently responsible for human disease today, were compared to standard reference strains that have been laboratory adapted over the last few decades. By studying multiple strains, the researchers discovered that the strains that were identified as the same strain were actually different.

The next step will be to study clinical strains in comparison with laboratory reference strains to decipher exactly how different strains cause disease and whether new diseases are emerging as a result of the emergence of new strains. "Large-scale comparative genomics will be necessary to understand the precise mechanisms underlying Chlamydia trachomatis recombination and how other species of chamydiae may evolve and transfer from animals to humans."

Source: Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland

Explore further: Experimental vaccine protects monkeys from blinding trachoma

Related Stories

Experimental vaccine protects monkeys from blinding trachoma

October 10, 2011
An attenuated, or weakened, strain of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria can be used as a vaccine to prevent or reduce the severity of trachoma, the world's leading cause of infectious blindness, suggest findings from a National ...

New diagnostic test can detect chlamydia trachomatis in less than 20 minutes

December 12, 2013
Researchers have developed a new assay for rapid and sensitive detection of Chlamydia trachomatis, the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in humans. This procedure takes less than 20 minutes and can be easily ...

Researchers produce first widely protective vaccine against chlamydia

July 19, 2016
The first steps towards developing a vaccine against an insidious sexual transmitted infection (STI) have been accomplished by researchers at McMaster University.

Safeguarding against chlamydia: Vaccine generates double protection in animals

June 18, 2015
Chlamydia trachomatis is a formidable foe. It's the most common sexually transmitted pathogen, infecting more than 100 million people each year. In the developing world, chlamydial infection is the leading cause of preventable ...

Certain vaginal bacteria may be linked with increased risk of chlamydia

September 25, 2017
The presence of specific types of vaginal bacteria may be associated with an increased risk for chlamydia infection, finds a small, but well powered study published online in Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Genomic sequencing reveals link between STIs and leading cause of infectious blindness

February 25, 2016
For the first time, genome sequencing has been carried out on Chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis), a bacteria responsible for the disease Trachoma - the world's leading infectious cause of blindness, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.